Ars Technica’s non-fungible guide to NFTs

Look ma, I'm on the blockchain

It has been nearly 10 years now since Ars Technica first described Bitcoin to readers as “the world’s first virtual currency… designed by an enigmatic, freedom-loving hacker, and currently used by the geek underground to buy and sell everything from servers to cellphone jammers.” A decade later, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are practically mainstream, and even most non-techies know the blockchain basics powering a decentralized financial revolution (or a persistent bubble, if you prefer).

What Bitcoin was to 2011, NFTs are to 2021. So-called “non-fungible tokens” are having a bit of a moment in recent weeks, attracting a surge of venture capital cash and eye-watering speculative values for traceable digital goods. This despite the fact that most of the general public barely understands how this blockchain-based system of digital authentication works, or why it’s behind people paying $69 million for a single GIF.

Fungible? Token?

Perhaps the simplest way to start thinking about NFTs is as a digital version of the various “certificates of authenticity” that are prevalent in the market for real-world art and collectibles. Instead of a slip of paper, though, NFTs use cryptographic smart contracts and a distributed blockchain (most often built on top of Ethereum these days) to certify who owns each distinct, authentic token.

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Ars Technica’s non-fungible guide to NFTs

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